Thursday, October 11, 2007

WRITING FOR THE COMPUTER SCREEN

When reading text on a computer screen, we tire at least 30% faster than while reading text on paper because screen resolution is poor. We also tend to skim the material, which explains why recipients often fail to answer the questions we pose in our emails without a second nudge.
Even if you do not write for online markets, all your electronic communications (especially query letters) should follow screen writing rules to make it easier on editors' eyes. The bonus -- you will look more professional and knowledgeable.
Here are some tips for writing for the computer screen:
  • provide plenty of white space around the words to reduce the density of the text
  • - leave the right side of emails ragged - do not justify the text
  • "chunk" your material -- by that I mean use short paragraphs so that no more than two paras are on the screen at any time, about 100 words. (http://www.writergazette.com/articles/article62.shtml shows exactly how it should be done for an ezine and will also give you some tips about getting published).
  • for online articles, use headings and sub-heads, bullets, etc.
  • double space between paras and bulletted lists
  • use a large enough font that contrasts with a light background (microscopic or difficult-to-read fancy fonts might just result in a deletion from a recipient who reads for a living)
  • use only one font - preferably Arial or Times New Roman (Verdana is trendy at the moment but not recommended by the tech-gurus).

Remember too that readers over 45 years, and that's most readers, need reading glasses and some have other visual challenges.... So these screen writing rules make a lot of sense even for emails to Aunt Agatha.